*Editor’s note: On March 4, Russia enacted a law that criminalizes public opposition to, or independent news reporting about, the war in Ukraine. The law makes it a crime to call the war a “war” rather than a “special military operation” on social media or in a news article or broadcast. The law is understood to penalize any language that “discredits” Russia’s use of its military in Ukraine, calls for sanctions or protests Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It punishes anyone found to spread “false information” about the invasion with up to 15 years in prison.
The White House is busy once again explaining what the president has said. President Joe Biden recently remarked that his country will defend Taiwan’s “independence” to the end. The White House then had to hurriedly clarify that the U.S. had no intentions of changing its official policy.
The media view Joe Biden’s remarks about Taiwan as yet another attempt to raise the stakes in the international arena, where the aging president has already caused a number of problems for the U.S.
According to Bloomberg, White House officials dismissed Biden’s statements that the U.S. military would intervene to protect Taiwan in the face of any attack from China. Such statements obviously contradict a long-standing U.S. policy of strategic ambiguity, meaning that the U.S. has been intentionally ambiguous about what it’s going to do to defend Taiwan.
Even though the Mutual Defense Treaty between the U.S. and Republic of China (Taiwan) was drafted to give Washington the right to defend Taipei in the event of a military threat, it doesn’t impose any specific obligations on the U.S. Therefore, this treaty is nothing like joint defense treaties with Japan and South Korea, where the U.S. has formally pledged to ensure the security of these countries.
It would be highly advisable for Taiwan to look at the history of the Ukrainian conflict immediately and purchase whatever weapons the U.S. is able to provide. Taiwan is completely justified in fearing that the West will leave Taiwan’s fate in the hands of China given the events in Ukraine and Afghanistan.
Is there any reason for Taiwan to think otherwise? In the meantime, as the Pentagon currently watches Ukraine lose the battle for the Donbas region, it is starting to worry about what the U.S. might face in the South China Sea. China hasn’t wasted any time and has increased its military presence around Taiwan, conducting its air and sea drills on an almost weekly basis.
That said, Beijing is quietly waiting for the 2024 Taiwanese elections. If the Kuomintang wins, China won’t hesitate to integrate Taiwan politically, as it did with Hong Kong.
The U.S. is the only country that could spoil these plans by flooding Taiwan with weapons as it did in Ukraine. Moreover, Washington is strongly advising Taipei to learn from Kyiv’s mistakes. That begs two questions: (1) What kind of military weapons would Taiwan need in the event of a hypothetical war? and (2) Does the U.S. have these weapons, given that it has already lost so many in Ukraine?
As of today, the U.S. can no longer sell the following weapons to Taiwan:
• M109A6 Paladin howitzers;
• MH-60R Seahawk helicopters; and
• E-2D Advanced Hawkeye reconnaissance aircraft.
However, the U.S. pledges to supply more Javelins, Stinger missiles, naval mines and anti-ship missiles, which are also in short supply even when it comes to Ukrainian arms shipments.
According to military news reporter Ge Peng-Xin, the U.S. is not ready to provide the M109A6 howitzers to Taiwan because its production capacities are currently limited.**
Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense has acknowledged that the U.S. will not be able to supply these weapons over the next few years, but will provide the country with Seahorse weapon systems and other long-range and more effective alternatives, which the Taiwanese military is now thoroughly evaluating.
The Ministry of National Defense has also noted that Taiwan needs more precision-strike weapons to defend itself. Therefore, the ministry will deliver a new military budget to higher authorities during the next session. The budget will be discussed and implemented once the military command has completed the study of the alternative weapons systems offered by the U.S.
That said, Taiwan is in no rush to draw any conclusions from the Ukrainian crisis, especially since the situation in Taiwan is entirely different. China can quickly blockade the island and cut off any Western arms shipments. Taiwan is perfectly aware of this as it carefully considers its next move.
Princeton University analysts believe China is very likely to attack Taiwan. However, it is not certain that the West, exhausted by Ukraine and the never-ending proxy war with Russia, will open a second front.
As Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told West Point graduates, there is little left of the U.S. strategic advantage over Russia and China. That is why new officers will have to serve in the context of global confrontation with powers equal to the U.S.
In the meantime, Beijing has found a place for its future military base, and more than one! The Solomon Islands, Australia’s neighbor, as well as the islands of Kiribati, southeast of Hawaii, are ready to welcome Chinese soldiers.
It is quite possible that Taiwan will become a new Suez crisis, a conflict that signified the end of British and French colonialism. The Ukrainian conflict is clearly demonstrating that the American establishment can no longer make balanced decisions. Accordingly, the U.S. may not know what to do about Taiwan. Needless to say, it gives the U.S. a lot to think about.
**Editor’s note: Neither the name of this reporter nor the reporter’s existence could be independently verified.
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